After 6 years of collaborative research among fish harvesters, academics and governments across Canada, the initial phase of the Canadian Fisheries Research Network (CFRN) has now been completed.  Thank you for your outstanding support and dedication to this highly unique and productive collaboration.  The success of the CFRN demonstrated the benefits to Canada of a national, coordinated fisheries research program on applied issues that links the capacities of fish harvesters, governments, academics and related funding agencies.  The CFRN pioneered strategic research on Management Strategy Evaluation and integrated assessment approaches, Marine Protected Areas, marine mammal and fishery interactions, gear modification to reduce seabed impacts, and much more (see CFRN Advancements and Achievements).  Collaboration enabled research that could not have been done by any one or two of the partners alone, and multiplied research contributions several fold.  The CFRN became a national platform for identifying research priorities and collaborative approaches to address strategic fisheries issues, and successfully leveraged funding for new and additional research.  The experience and established relationships of the CFRN can be used as a springboard for new initiatives.

We are actively working to build on the important work and strong partnerships of the CFRN to enable continuation of the collaborative approach to applied fisheries research that Canada needs, consistent with the wishes and enthusiasm that many of you have expressed.  One possibility that has emerged is potential funding in the form of a network under the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program.  The NCE program is jointly administered by Canada's three research granting agencies – the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) – in partnership with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) and Health Canada.  The NCE program funds interdisciplinary work of the type that CFRN partners have identified in various meetings about future fisheries research needs. 

The University of British Columbia has tabled some seed funding for the NCE initiative, and a Steering Committee was formed in January 2017 to begin to develop its scope and themes.  The Steering Committee members thus far include Villy Christensen, Andrew Trites, Simon Courtenay, Jim McIsaac, Maria Recchia, David Decker/Dwan Street, Kevin Reid, Rémy Rochette, Mark Saunders, Susan Thompson and Rob Stephenson.  This group is actively working to ensure full participation from current and additional partners across Canada on the Steering Committee (social scientists, First Nations, others) as soon as possible, so that the initiative may be shaped together from the beginning.  We expect a call for NCE proposals later this year, and welcome your continued collaboration in exploring this opportunity. 

The intent of the NCE is to build on discussions about future fisheries research needs that have occurred within the CFRN.  A consensus exists among CFRN partners that the challenges posed by climate change to Canadian fisheries management and coastal communities provide the strategic issue for future collaboration.  Consideration of the ecological, social, cultural, economic and institutional impacts of climate change, management response and community adaptation is required to address these challenges.  This implies a wide spectrum of research related to changing productivity and distribution of fish stocks, enhanced ecosystem monitoring and assessment, spatial management, risk assessment, decision-making and tradeoffs, and more collaborative approaches to management, which are consistent with governmental priorities (e.g., Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard Mandate Letter). 

Both the mandate and research capacity to address these large, multidisciplinary challenges are spread among institutions and groups:  DFO, the fishing industry, First Nations, Provinces, academia (natural and social sciences), NGOs, funding agencies and others.  There is a need to combine their capacities in a collaborative, strategic approach for sustainable fisheries and for healthy coastal and First Nations communities across Canada.  The NCE will, if funded, galvanize fisheries research in Canada in a long-term, strategic common venture for sustainable, adaptable and resilient fisheries; provide a unique platform for fishery-related training and professional development; and complement and link with other oceans-related research initiatives (e.g., MEOPAR, CHONe, OceanCanada Partnership, Ocean Tracking Network, Ocean Frontier Institute).  

We encourage you to contact members of the Future Initiatives Steering Committee, and particularly Villy Christensen (v.christensen@oceans.ubc.ca; 604-822-5751), for further information and collaboration regarding the NCE initiative.  We look forward to continued communication and collaboration among CFRN partners about the NCE and other future initiatives as they emerge.

With thanks and best regards,

Rob Stephenson and Susan Thompson